Beesotted’s stats guru, Will Allsopp, shares his thoughts on how he feels the new season will pan out for The Bees. He also talks through his forecasts in this week’s Pride of West London podcast which can be downloaded here on Thursday morning.

Last season was a fantastic rollercoaster ride. From our opening win against Arsenal, through the troubled waters of the winter months, out the other side of the tunnel with a certain Number 21 running the show. Clearly this coming season will be different, and bring new, difficult challenges. Dare I mention the phrase “Second Season Syndrome”? There’s no real way of telling how we’ll do this year, but I think there are a few key areas which will have a large impact on where we end up next May.

Mbeumo’s Accuracy
Bryan Mbeumo is the ultimate marmite player if Twitter is anything to go by. Some lionize him as a hard-working monster of a forward who just never stops running and working for the team (this author included). Others rightly point to a terrible lack of accuracy in front of goal last season.

He scored four goals from 9.66xG, meaning he scored just 41% as often as the average striker would have in his positions. Those extra five (and a bit) goals could have gone on to have a massive impact in securing our safety earlier, and could even have pushed us into the top half of the table.

We lost eight games by a single goal last term, and drew seven games. Five extra goals from Bryan in these games – had he performed as expected – would have given us a minimum of five extra points, putting us into the top half of the table on goal difference!

Extrapolating Bryan’s form from his first season with the Bees (where he scored 16 from 10.11xG) would give us a minimum of ten (!) extra goals, putting us up to seventh and in the UEFA Conference League.

If Mbeumo can regain any semblance of his luck and form from 19/20, potentially in a front 3 a-la-BMW, we will be very well set in attack for the coming season.

Replacing Eriksen’s Creativity

Yeah, I know, I’d rather not talk about it either. But the truth is that we’re going to miss Christian Eriksen’s creativity and passing accuracy dearly this coming season.

The Danish playmaker offered up 0.34 xA (expected assists) per 90 minutes played, comfortably the highest in the squad.

Our current like-for-like replacement Mathias Jensen managed 0.2 xA per 90, which is not terrible, but is a significant downgrade.

However, when it comes to passing accuracy, Jensen is not that far behind Eriksen, coming in at 5% less accurate for both medium and long passes.

The real gulf in class begins to show when you look at completed passes into the final third per 90 minutes. Eriksen has 7.21, whereas Jensen is down at 3.76, below Christian Norgaard. This is a crucial area of improvement if Mathias is to be anywhere near as effective as Eriksen.

Potential new signing Mikkel Damsgaard managed just 1.41 completed passes to the final third per 90 in his injury-hit season with Sampdoria last year. But only managing six full 90s suggests he was far from his best in any case. Fingers crossed our coaching team can unlock his potential if he does arrive at the Gtech in the coming weeks!

Hickey’s Impact

Aaron Hickey will be a fascinating player to watch, if for nothing else than the clamour around our successive failures to sign a right back in recent years.

He seems to be a similar player to Rico Henry in that he does not really cross the ball very often, in fact crossing into the 18-yard box only once every three games on average last season for Bologna.

Instead, where he really shone was in carrying the ball into the opposition third, managing this an average of 1.44 times per 90 – Bologna’s only regularly-playing defender to do this. So he’ll run the ball into opposition territory, then look to lay the ball off to a winger who is over or underlapping.

For a comparison here, think of the way that Rico played with Said Benrahma in the 2019/20 season, constantly overlapping and interweaving the play on the left hand side. It’s a tasty prospect thinking of Wissa and Mbeumo doing this with Hickey and Henry.

And in terms of our options from last year, the only like-for-like RB comparison is Mads Roerslev, who carried the ball into the opposition third just 0.36 times per 90.

So Hickey is a largely different player in this mould, much more similar to the way that Sergi Canos would play as a RB, but with the added bonus of being much better defensively.

Final thoughts

In summary, I think this could easily be an excellent second season in the top flight for the Bees. Our recruitment this summer means that if Rico, Raya, or Ajer are out then we are nowhere near as screwed as last season.

But our squad is still thin, and if Ivan Toney or Christian Norgaard were injured, I think our performances would dip significantly. It will be down to players like Jensen (Damsgaard?), Mbeumo, and Hickey to better our performances from last year and push us further onwards, as opposed to slipping backwards into Second Season Syndrome.

Will Allsopp